Contested Mindscapes: Exploring Approaches to Dementia in Modern Popular Culture (2018)
Published November 2018
Dementia is a mental health condition which affects an estimated 50 million people worldwide. Yet it has, until recently, been an unfairly neglected subject in popular culture.
Contested Mindscapes considers the ways in which the arts have engaged with dementia over the past twenty years, looking at particular examples drawn from the disciplines of film and television, popular music, performance art, and interactive entertainment.
Examining a variety of creative approaches ranging from the thought-provoking to the controversial, Contested Mindscapes carefully contemplates the many ways in which the humanities and entertainment industries have engaged with dementia, exploring how the wide-ranging implications of this complex condition have been communicated through a variety of artistic nodes.
Contested Mindscapes is split into four individual sections, each focusing on eight particular examples selected for discussion which have been drawn from cinema and popular genres of television; various styles of musical performance; different modes of dramatic and performance art; and videogames and interactive entertainment ranging from early home computing through to more recent releases from the past few years.
The Inside Story:
Like so many different forms of mental health disorder, dementia has been wrongly treated as a taboo subject for many years, and it has only been within the past few decades that popular culture has begun to engage more fully with the condition and its the issues surrounding it, with the disorder now becoming the central subject of major mainstream creative works.
As I make clear in Contested Mindscapes, I am neither a doctor of medicine nor a scientific researcher, and this book is not an examination of the medical realism inherent in portrayals of dementia across nodes of popular culture. While clearly not exhaustive by any means, this short book is an attempt to take a closer look at dementia’s depiction within a number of examples of popular culture in the world today, inspired by subject matter which has been drawn - in the main - from across the past twenty years.
Contested Mindscapes is intended to be a creative tour; an observance of artistic works from across many different media modes which have challenged expectations regarding dementia, encouraging the public to examine their attitudes and responses surrounding the condition as well as towards those who are affected by it. In so doing, such artistic works have emphasised the importance of considering and supporting the needs of the individual, of confronting clichés and misconceptions regarding dementia, and ensuring that the condition is brought to the forefront of discussion.
Perhaps most importantly of all, the new willingness within popular culture to more fully consider dementia and its many implications will hopefully emphasise to people living with the illness that they are not undergoing a solitary experience; that although no two individuals will ever experience dementia in an exactly identical way, others all over the world are facing the same struggles and complications as an everyday part of their own personal existence.